Renewable energy in Northern Europe: 3 cases

May 26, 2022 | Alexey Aliev

The idea to shift to renewable energy sources is becoming more and more popular. In 2020 the share of alternative sources in the global amount of produced electricity was 29%. The complete shift to renewables by 2040 doesn’t sound so unrealistic.

A lot of people, though, are still sceptical about the “green” energy and consider total transition away from coal impossible. The slower economic growth in 2021 due to the pandemic only adds to the lack of trust. Some conservative markets are especially reluctant to implement clean energy technologies. While they tend to rely on the export of hydrocarbons, there are other reasons as well.

Plenty of countries can be considered inappropriate for the full-year use of solar energy. The wind energy, in turn, seems to be not efficient enough to supply the necessary amount of electricity to especially big cities. However, in reality solar panels are successfully used even in regions with a cold climate. In this article we present success stories of alternative energy use in some countries of Northern Europe.

The northernmost region of Great Britain is very close to complete decarbonisation: in 2020, 97% of electricity in the region was generated from renewable sources. In this regard Scotland is way ahead of other parts of the United Kingdom. In total, 30% of energy consumed in the country was produced from renewable sources. It is expected that by 2030 that number will reach 50%.

The main energy source for Scotland is onshore wind, which accounts for more than 60% of the total electricity generation.
Source: Scottish Renewables, 2020
Such high results for wind plants are not a coincidence: for example, in Edinburgh average wind speed during the cold months is over 20 m/s. The figures for other parts of Scotland are as high.

Solar power is less on demand and accounts for only 1,1% of the total electricity generated. However, this source is also important for Scotland, and the country’s government is ready to support the development of the solar energy market.

More than 56 thousand households in Scotland use solar panels. To encourage their installation, until 2010 the government issued grants that would enable families to get up to 30% of the cost back. Then the grants were replaced with loans of up to 5000 pounds, which accounts for up to 75% of a panel price.
Installed solar panels in Great Britain. Photo:
Scotland is not afraid that using solar power in such a cold and rainy region would be inefficient, because direct solar rays are not necessary to generate energy – just daylight is enough. According to the Energy Saving Trust, the usual solar photovoltaic system with the power of 3 kW (kilowatt) in Scotland generates around 2300 kWh (kilowatt hours) of electricity every day, which accounts for around 75% of electricity consumed by an average household.

Denmark is the European leader in terms of the share of wind and solar energy in the total energy consumption – 58%. Denmark was the first to cross the threshold of 50% for this indicator thanks to its strong infrastructure: the country is the world’s leader in terms of the wind capacity installed per capita.

Almost 70% of electricity generated from renewable sources fall on wind energy.
Source: Danish Energy Agency, 2019
In spite of the cold climate, Denmark successfully uses solar power as well, more than other countries in Europe, including the southern ones.

And the country doesn’t stop there: it is expected that in 2022 the European Energy will connect to the grid the largest solar power plant in Northern Europe with the power of 300 MW (megawatt). It will be located in the municipality of Aabenraa in southern Jutland and will have cost $158m.
Solar plant in southern Jutland. Photo: RechargeNews
The solar plant will be located near the data centres, as well as a large regional transformer substation that will supply the amount of ecologically clean energy, enough for 75 thousand Danish households - an impressive result for a small northern country.

Germany is the absolute European leader in terms of the amount of alternative energy generated. Geographical location and climate allow the country to demonstrate high results in generating not only solar energy, but wind energy as well.

Germany cannot be called a northern country - southern regions of the country have quite a warm climate and much more sunlight than the north. However, this difference doesn’t hold the northern German lands back in its development of “green” energy.

Good example is the NEW 4.0 project that is implemented in the regions of Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein. The programme’s target is to completely shift to renewable energy sources in the northern lands. In 2018 this task was achieved by 81%. In Schleswig-Holstein in particular - by 60%. And the wind is not the only power source this region that borders Denmark is relying on.
Source: NEW 4.0, 2018
In spite of the not so pleasant climate, the region is actively using solar energy, as well as wind energy that is transported to the southern parts of the country. These high results are achieved thanks to the good level of infrastructure: Schleswig-Holstein is one of the leaders in terms of renewable energy sources installed capacity. Until recently the region was one of four in Germany that still produced nuclear energy, but in the late 2021 the last nuclear plant there was shut down to unleash wind energy in the north of the country.
Where do EVs come into play?

The electric car market is growing, as well as the demand for electricity. This growth the European countries are planning to meet through renewable sources. Denmark is a good example to show the relationship
While the number of electric vehicles increases, the consumption of electricity decreases, although the consumption of renewable energy increases and thereby meets the growing demand.
The relationships of electric cars and renewable energy sources look more than healthy: with alternative energy used electric cars become truly eco-friendly. And this happens quite often: on average from 28 to 42% of electric car owners in different European countries install solar panels in their homes. The example of Denmark shows that northern regions are capable of using this synergy, if they have infrastructure that is good enough in terms of solar panels, charging stations, etc. But with the development of such infrastructure, the hope for the future with eco-friendly energy is growing.